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Um er-Rasas (Kastrom Mefa'a) (Jordan) (C 1093)
Year of inscription on the World Heritage List 2004
Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger N/A
Previous Committee Decisions see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1093/documents/
Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved: USD 34,750
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1093/assistance/
UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds
Total amount granted: USD 6,000 from the Italian Funds-in-Trust
Previous monitoring missions
March-April 2005: ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission; November 2006: Joint World Heritage Centre/ ICOMOS mission; March 2008: Joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS mission; July 2008: World Heritage Centre expert mission for the Stylite tower
Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports
- Important tourism development project with new constructions (issue resolved)
- Lack of comprehensive conservation plan, public use plan and archaeological research plan integrated with management plan
- Major visitor accommodation and associated infrastructure (issue resolved)
- Management systems/ management plan: complex management systems / structure
- Unstable structures and lack of security and planned conservation action
Illustrative material see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1093/
Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2021
On 30 November 2020, the State Party submitted a report on the state of conservation of the property, a summary of which is available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1093/documents/, and presents progress in addressing a number of conservation issues identified by the Committee at its previous sessions, as follows:
- The Department of Antiquities is exploring the undertaking of a work-plan, public use plan and archaeological research policy in response to repeated requests from the World Heritage Committee, but financial and human resource issues mean that the documents will be pursued in the future on an ad hoc basis;
- Action has been limited to identifying five priorities for works based on the 2017 Management Plan: The Stylite Tower; The Castrum Fortification; Restoration and Maintenance of Mosaics and Archaeological Features; Interpretation of the Site; and Public Safety;
- The property’s newly-allocated budget was dedicated to the ‘Um er-Rasas Restoration and Maintenance project’, which will address four axes: Documentation (of the Castrum); Restoration and Maintenance (mosaic floors; St Stephen’s walls; plaster work); Site Interpretation (replacing damaged signage; introducing new signage and panels); and Public Safety (fences around fall-dangers and the Stylite Tower; maintenance of trails and church shelters);
- The Department of Antiquities plans to cooperate with the UNESCO Amman Office to assess and improve the conservation of the Stylite Tower, in line with geotechnical, geophysical and geostructural analysis (2014), but this has been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic and put on hold;
- A survey by drone is planned for the Castrum as the basis for the numbering and rearranging of stones in the outer elevations, as and when funding is available;
- A joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Advisory mission will be invited to the property when COVID-19 restrictions allow, and once the planning for work on the Stylite Tower with the UNESCO Amman Office, and documentation of the Castrum and a related work-plan, have been drafted;
- The need to expand the buffer zone has been investigated by an expert committee that has determined that current property and buffer zone boundaries are adequate to protect the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) and attributes. Private land within the buffer zone is either being progressively acquired by the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, or specific planning regulations are being planned for its management;
- The State Party indicates that administrative complexities in budget supply have been addressed and that the allocated budgets of the Department of Antiquities and the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities have been coordinated to improve the flow of available funds.
Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre, ICOMOS and ICCROM
It is recommended that the State Party be congratulated on the adoption of the ‘Um er-Rasas Restoration and Maintenance project’ as a step towards implementing the 2017 Management Plan. However, it is noted that the development of a conservation plan, public use plan and archaeological research policy, as recommended to be included in the Conservation Plan by the World Heritage Committee several times over recent years, has been put on hold due to financial and human resources constraints. As has been noted previously, the 2017 Management Plan contains sections that provide a good basis for the development of these necessary support documents, but they need to be developed further to provide practical guidance for on-ground planning and decision making. The State Party should be again encouraged to continue to give high priority to the development of the conservation plan, public use plan and archaeological research policy as critical tools that support the Management Plan and the protection of OUV.
It should be noted that the review of the buffer zone boundaries is in keeping with the 2017 Management Plan, and it is recommended that the Committee encourage the State Party to continue to periodically review the adequacy of the boundaries of the buffer zone to guarantee the protection of the property’s OUV, and, if necessary, propose minor boundary modifications.
It should be noted that out of the 100 recommended actions contained in the 2017 Management Plan, 75 are given ‘high priority’ status. This does not provide a helpful basis for prioritizing the allocation of the scarce financial resources. While the five priorities selected by the ‘Um er-Rasas Restoration and Maintenance project’ for action include works urgently needed for the protection of attributes of OUV, it is still necessary to develop planning documents and undertake related works that would address the conservation of the property as a whole and better inform long-term decision-making. It is advised that the State Party be encouraged to further refine and elaborate the priority ranking of the Implementation Action Plan within the 2017 Management Plan in order to provide a balanced and practical list of priorities for work programs in coming years.
The design of the proposed structural consolidation program for the Stylite Tower will be developed in conjunction with the UNESCO Amman Office, based on earlier technical studies previously submitted to the World Heritage Centre. As the project is currently awaiting relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions, a temporary fence is to be built around the tower for its protection in the short term. It is recommended that the Committee reiterate the need for the submission of a works proposal to the World Heritage Centre before works commence.
The State Party indicates that ongoing restoration work is continuing in the excavated parts of the Castrum, and that proposed works on the unexcavated part of the Castrum are limited to survey, modelling and drawing as a preliminary to planning future conservation work. However, while this work is welcomed, there is no response to the Committee’s urging of temporary works to protect fragile elements of the Castrum while planning works progress. A clarification should be sought on the nature of urgent conservation works to the south wall identified in the 2017 Management Plan, the urgent consolidation of the already-excavated gates and walls of the Castrum, and how the State Party intends to address this reported threat to a major attribute of OUV.
Decision Adopted: 44 COM 7B.129
The World Heritage Committee,
- Having examined Document WHC/21/44.COM/7B,
- Recalling Decision 43 COM 7B.47, adopted at its 43rd session (Baku, 2019),
- Congratulates the State Party on continuing to implement the Management Plan for Um er-Rasas and, while acknowledging that the Management Plan contains sections that underpin the development of the previously-requested Conservation Plan including a detailed work-plan, Public Use Plan and archaeological research policy, reiterates its request that these aspects of site management be explored in more detail;
- Encourages the State Party to further refine and elaborate the priority ranking of the Implementation Action Plan within the 2017 Management Plan in order to provide a balanced and practical list of priorities for work programs prior to the finalisation of the previously requested Conservation Plan and incorporated work-plan;
- Also reiterates its request that the State Party submit the final conservation project proposal for the Stylite Tower as soon as possible for review by the World Heritage Centre and Advisory Bodies, and urges the State Party to continue monitoring the conservation situation closely;
- Notes the inclusion of the survey of the Castrum in the current work program, but reiterates its concern that the urgent conservation work at the Castrum identified in the Management Plan does not appear to have taken place (including urgent conservation work to the south wall and the already excavated gates and walls), and also urges the State Party to undertake all needed temporary and reversible consolidation interventions of the fragile attributes across the whole property while planning for longer-term conservation;
- Welcomes the State Party’s undertaking to invite a joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Advisory mission to support the finalization of outstanding projects when COVID-19 restrictions allow;
- Also notes the State Party’s decision, after expert consideration, to confirm that existing property and buffer zone boundaries are appropriate for the protection of the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (OUV), and also encourages the State Party to continue to review the boundaries of the buffer zone in keeping with the 2017 Management Plan and, if necessary, propose minor boundary modifications;
- Requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2022, an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 46th session.